Congenital heart disease means being born with a heart problem, like a small hole on the walls of the heart. Or, the issue might be more severe. Other people with congenital heart defects may only need relatively simple treatment. Others, however, might need surgery more than once in their lifetime.
Causes of Congenital Heart Disease
There’s no clear cause on why people develop congenital heart defects. But there are risk factors that might increase the chances. Genetics can be a factor. For example, many children with Down syndrome have congenital heart issues.
The child’s environment during the earliest stages in the womb might also be another factor. These scenarios that happen to mothers while pregnant may increase the risk of their children developing congenital heart defects:
- Consuming certain types of medicine
- Smoking and drinking alcohol
- Contracting German measles or rubella
- Having uncontrolled diabetes
Various Types of Congenital Heart Disease
There are various types of congenital heart disease but the most common ones involve structural issues like holes and leaky valves. Listed below are some of the types:
Heart valve defects
Heart valves may either be too narrow or completely closed which makes the circulation of blood difficult and or impossible. There are also other cases of heart valve defects where the valve does not properly close resulting in blood leaking backwards.
Problems with walls of the heart
This can be due to the problems between the chambers of the heart called the atria and ventricles. Holes between the said walls of the heart may result in blood mixing within the walls of the heart which may result in adverse health effects.
Issues with the heart muscles
The heart muscle should be able to efficiently pump blood and when there are issues with the heart muscle it may result in a weak and inefficient pump of the heart.
Improper connections among blood vessels
Infants with improper connections among blood vessels may have blood flow to the incorrect organs such as blood meant for lungs going into other internal organs and vice versa. This can make blood flow to and from the heart inefficient and unreliable causing other possible health conditions.
As mentioned earlier, congenital heart disease or heart problems that an individual is born with may pose no symptoms at all. However, some symptoms may be shortness of breath and problems with exercise. Infants or young children may have a different set of symptoms such as bluish shade of the skin, fingernails and lips which doctors call cyanosis usually caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood, rapid or fast breathing, poor feeding, poor weight gain, possible lung infections and difficulty or even inability to exercise.
Doctors can detect congenital heart disease even before an infant is born. But some people may be diagnosed during childhood or as adults. Initially, doctors would listen for an unusual heart murmur to determine if other tests are needed to confirm the possibility of the patient having congenital heart disease. These other tests include:
This is a type of ultrasound that can take pictures of the heart and the doctor can recommend the most appropriate type of echocardiogram based on the requirements or condition of the patient
The doctor can check for any heart defects by inserting and flexible hose through the heart’s blood vessel with an entry point in either the arm or the leg of the patient. The doctor will then add dye to through the catheter to highlight the areas of the heart to identify and possibly spot any heart problems or ailments.
Standard chest x-rays are extremely helpful in identifying any sign of heart failure.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
This test will let the doctor know the heart’s electrical activity.
MRI- MRI or magnetic resonance imaging can help doctors look at the structures of the heart and determine if there are any defects caused by congenital heart defects.
As stated earlier, some individuals with congenital heart disease may not even require any treatment as the of their heart disease may remain asymptomatic and does not affect their quality of life and overall health. For those in need of medical treatment for congenital heart defects, various treatments may be recommended by your doctor to address this illness.
Patients may be advised to take medications, undergo surgery or other medical procedures. People with confirmed congenital heart defects must visit a specialist regularly. This is especially important as they are at an increased risk of developing inflammation of heart walls, a condition called endocarditis by doctors.
Patients with congenital heart disease may also consider doing the following things to protect themselves:
- Tell doctors and other health professionals in advance that you have been diagnosed with congenital heart disease as this can greatly alter and determine the type of treatment to be prescribed for your medical condition.
- Patients with congenital heart disease should always take signs of infection seriously and consider calling their doctors for any symptoms such as sore throat, body aches and fever.
- Oral hygiene and health will especially be important for patients with congenital heart disease since if these are left unchecked, these may lead to serious infections for patients.
- Patients with congenital heart disease may want to take antibiotics before having any major medical work done on them. Doctors can prescribe the right dosage for patients and individuals with this illness.